tv PBS News Hour PBS April 12, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: >> the current state of u.s.- russia relations is at a low point. >> woodruff: secretary of state rex tillerson and his russian counterpart meet to discuss the future of the two country's relationship amid disagreements over syria's use of chemical weapons. then, we sit down with nato's secretary general after his meeting at the white house with president trump, who has strongly criticized the nato alliance. and, the trump administration sets its sights on space. how one congressman who controls nasa's purse strings is pushing to go to the moon, mars and beyond. >> i've always wanted to restore nasa, for the glory days of apollo, as you and i remembered as kids. i want to see nasa go above and
solutions to the world's most pressing problems-- skollfoundation.org. >> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives through invention. in the u.s. and developing countries. on the web at lemelson.org. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: new tensions between the united states and russia dominated this day. america's top diplomat carried u.s. grievances over syria and
other issues to moscow, while president trump spoke out, in washington. chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner has our report. >> reporter: the discord was on display at the very outset of secretary of state rex tillerson's meetings with russian foreign minister sergey lavrov. >> ( translated ): we have a lot of questions regarding very ambiguous and-- as well as sometimes contradictory ideas on coming from washington. >> reporter: tillerson acknowledged "sharp differences," and, after meeting privately with russian president vladimir putin, he emerged with an even grimmer appraisal. >> the current state of u.s.- russia relations is at a low point. there is a low level of trust between our two countries. the world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship. >> reporter: the most immediate trigger for tensions: a deadly sarin gas attack in syria last week, and the u.s. response, a cruise missile strike on a syrian air base. lavrov again denied the syrian
government was responsible. >> ( translated ): we believe it's necessary to have an international, unbiased, frank investigation into this incident. there were no signs that would support the statement, the allegation that chemical agents were used there at all. >> reporter: tillerson insisted again that syria's government did carry out the attack, and he called again for russia to abandon president bashar al- assad. >> we do think it's important that assad's departure is done in an orderly way-- an orderly way. so that certain interests and constituencies that he represents feel that they have been represented at the negotiating table for a political solution. how that occurs, we leave that to the process going forward. >> reporter: but in new york this afternoon: >> it is long past time for russia to stop covering for assad. >> reporter: russia vetoed a u.n. security council resolution condemning the gas attack in
syria. the chill in moscow today was a far cry from the atmosphere a year ago. then-candidate donald trump repeatedly praised vladimir putin during the campaign, and he suggested a rapprochement with russia was both desirable and possible. that all changed with last week's gas attack, and president trump's quick response. even before the meetings, president putin gave his own, pointed assessment of u.s.- russia relations today, on russian state television. >> ( translated ): it is possible to say that the level of trust, on a working level, especially on the military level, it has not improved, but rather has deteriorated. >> reporter: in turn, president trump had harsh new words for the russians-- and their syrian ally assad-- in an interview that aired on "fox business" network. >> if russia didn't go in and back this animal, you wouldn't have a problem right now. frankly, putin is backing a
person that's truly an evil person. and i think it's very bad for russia. i think it's very bad for mankind. it's very bad for this world. >> reporter: mr. trump followed up at a joint white house news conference with nato's secretary-general. >> right now, we're not getting along with russia. we may be an all time low in terms of relationship with russia. this was built from a long period of time, but we are going to see what happens. >> reporter: tensions are over more than syria. in moscow, secretary tillerson again criticized russia's intervention in ukraine-- which triggered western sanctions. >> until full progress is made under the minsk accords, the situation in ukraine will remain an obstacle to improvement in relations between the u.s. and russia. >> reporter: lavrov gave no ground on ukraine, or on russian meddling in the u.s. election. the two men did agree to establish a working group to try
for progress in stabilizing relations. for the pbs newshour, i'm margaret warner. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, china's leader xi jinping told president trump that he's willing to work with the u.s. to stop north korea's nuclear program, peacefully. the two men spoke in a late- night phone call after mr. trump's twitter warning yesterday that the u.s. might act alone. in beijing today, the chinese foreign ministry said the call was a positive sign. >> ( translated ): on the nuclear issue, president xi stated china's stance, that we abide by the objective of de-nuclearisation on the peninsula, continue to maintain the peace and stability on the peninsula and continue to resolve the issue peacefully via dialogue and negotiation. the u.s. clearly understands this stance. >> woodruff: the phone call came just days after the two leaders met in florida, and after the president seemed to tie trade issues to cooperation on north korea. in fact, the president said he will not officially label china
a "currency manipulator," as he had promised during the campaign. mr. trump tweeted today that the call was a "very good" conversation. and, in an interview that aired today on fox business news, he also said the north korea situation is, "not as simple as people would think." there's word the f.b.i. obtained a secret court order last summer, to monitor communications of carter page. he was advising the trump campaign at the time. "the washington post" reports a special court on intelligence matters found there was reason to believe page was acting as a russian agent. today, on cnn, page said, "it's just such a joke, that it's beyond words." meanwhile, president trump's former campaign chair, paul manafort, now says he is registering with the u.s. as a foreign agent. the associated press confirmed today that his lobbying firm did receive more than $1 million from a pro-russian political
party in ukraine. that was in 2007 and 2009. manafort previously said any records of such payments were fabricated. in south africa, tens of thousands turned out against president jacob zuma today, on his 75th birthday. it's the latest in a string of protests calling for his resignation over allegations of widespread corruption. demonstrators flooded the main square today in the capital pretoria, chanting and carrying a mock coffin. meanwhile, zuma attended a birthday celebration outside johannesburg. back in this country, republicans managed to hold a u.s. house seat in kansas, in tuesday's special congressional election. ron estes won by just seven points in a district that went republican in november by 31 points. democrat james thompson conceded defeat last night, but he said it's a warning to republicans everywhere: >> we've shown that this
district is not just competitive, but that we can win it. we have already shocked this country. we've sent a message that no republican district in this country is safe. >> woodruff: the kansas seat had been held by mike pompeo, now president trump's c.i.a. director. republicans face three more special elections to hold seats in georgia, montana and south carolina. their occupants also joined the trump administration. the white house lifted a hiring freeze on the federal work force today. president trump had imposed it, on his first day in office. now, the administration is asking agencies to identify cuts they can make in their staffs. in economic news, the president told "the wall street journal" that he is concerned the u.s. dollar is getting "too strong" and said he had not decided whether to re-appoint janet yellen as chairman of the federal reserve when her term ends in 2018.
on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost 59 points to close at 20,591. the nasdaq fell 30, and the s&p 500 slipped eight. still to come on the newshour: i speak to the head of nato about how the alliance should address today's global threats; florida battles wildfires raging across the state; make nasa great again? the agency's future under president trump, and much more. >> woodruff: as we reported earlier, president trump hosted the nato secretary general this afternoon at the white house. and a short time later, i spoke with jens stoltenberg. mr. secretary general, welcome to the "newshour". we heard president trump say today that relations between the united states and russia may be at their lowest point since the
end of the cold war. would you say the same thing about relations between n.a.t.o. and russia right now? >> at least the relationship is difficult, and that reflects that we see a more assertive russia which has implemented a very significant military buildup over several years and a russia which has used military force against neighbors, especially ukraine. n.a.t.o. is responding to that with the high readiness of forces, with the biggest reinforcements and collect i've defense since the cold war. at the same time, we say we are seeking to avoid the new cold war, avoid the new arms race and, therefore, we continue to work for a more constructive relationship with russia including political russia. >> woodruff: how do you prevent it from becoming a one upmanship?
russia has sent more troops to their border, how do you keep it from spiraling out of control? >> partly by making sure that what n.a.t.o. does is proportionate defensive and, therefore, we are deploying battle groups, battalions which we consider necessary to convey a message of deterrence, credible deterrence. if one n.a.t.o. ally is attacked, it will trigger a response from the whole alliance. but at the same time, we have been able to convene last three meetings in what we call the n.a.t.o.-russia council after two years without any meetings and this council is a platform where n.a.t.o. and russia meets. we discuss issues like ukraine, afghanistan, and so on, and that's the way to keep the channels for political dialogue open and keep the tensions down.
>> woodruff: you came from the meeting with president trump. he spent months and months in his campaign for president and even since then criticizing n.a.t.o., criticizing its role as times even asking whether n.a.t.o. was obsolete. why do you think his -- or do you think his view of n.a.t.o. has changed and, if so, why? >> i welcome the fact he clearly stated today that n.a.t.o. is not obsolete and i think, also, that reflects that n.a.t.o. is adapting. n.a.t.o. is the most successful alliance in history because we have been able to change, to adapt when the world is changing. now n.a.t.o. is stepping up its effort no the global fight against terrorism and we are responding to a more assertive russia with an increase or collective defense, with more presence in the eastern part of the alliance. so as long as n.a.t.o. change, when the world is changing, we will be very important for the
security of all our allies including the united states. >> woodruff: you did note today that nate members are increasing their contributions to the alliance, as president trump has been calling for them to do. are you confident, though that that is going to continue in the way that you and president trump say that it needs to? >> i expect it to continue because all 28 allies have agreed that they will stop the cuts in defense spending, gradual increase, and move towards spending 2% of g.d.p., gross domestic product, on defense. the encouraging thing is that we have seen -- that we have turned a corner after many, many years of decline in defense spending across europe and canada. in 2016, we saw the first significant increase. we still have a long way to go, but at least european allies have kind of started move in the right direction. >> woodruff: you also spoke today, mr. secretary general, about the fight against terrorism, the global fight, and
you said n.a.t.o. has a larger role to play in that regard. what exactly did you have in mind? >> many things, but perhaps the most important thing is to build local capacity, meaning train local forms, build local defense institutions, defense ministries because in the long run it is specterred that local forces are stabilizing their own country, fighting terrorism themselves instead of n.a.t.o. deploying a large number of combat troops in combat operations, and that's n.a.t.o.'sex persons from afghanistan. we have ended our combat operations there. we trained the local afghans to fight terrorism themselves and think, in the long run, that's a much more sustainable approach. >> woodruff: but that is, i think most observers now see afghanistan as slipping back into chaos, the taliban is stronger than many people say it's been in years. i.s.i.s. now has a foothold.
but you're saying that's not a reason for n.a.t.o. to get involved? >> i'm saying there are many difficult challenges in afghanistan. we still have taliban, we still have terrorist organizations there, and we'll see violence and we'll see conflict there, also, in the coming years, but we have achieved at least two important things. afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists. we have a strong afghan army, which is fighting the terrorists and taliban. the second thing is they are able to do that without us being there to conduct the combat operations. what n.a.t.o. troops are doing in afghanistan is train, assist and advise the afghans, but they are actually doing the fighting. they are actually taking the responsibility for the security in their own country, and that is a great achievement compared to what we saw a few years ago when n.a.t.o. troops had to conduct a combat operations fighting in -- fighting the
taliban. >> woodruff: you think that war going in the right direction, though? >> i think it is a very important step in the right direction that the afghans have taken over responsibility for the security in their own country and n.a.t.o. being able to end its combat presence in afghanistan, but, of course, there are still many, many uncertainties, challenges and difficulties in afghanistan, but we have to enable the afghans to manage those challenges themselves. we cannot solve all the problems for afghans. >> woodruff: finally, mr. secretary general, a question about turkey which is, as you know, days away from a referendum that would grant sweeping additional powers to president erdogan, essentially allowing him to be immune to any oversight by the parliament or by the courts. you know, there are those who are critics of his who are saying that this will lead to if it passes is n.a.t.o.'s second
largest standing army controlled, in essence, by someone who has dictatorial powers. how comfortable would you be with that? >> turkey's valued ally, important ally for n.a.t.o. at least because of its strategic geographic location bordering syria and iraq and close to russia in the black sea. we have to remember turkey has suffered many terrorist attacks, a failed coup attempt in july of last year, and is the ally most affected by the instability, the violence we see in syria and iraq. turkey has, of course, the right to protect itself against terrorism, against attacks, but i expect it to be done in a way which is in accordance with the rule of law, democratic values, and that is something that i've expressed several times in
meetings we did with turkish leaders. >> woodruff: jens stoltenberg, secretary general for n.a.t.o. we thank you very much. >> thank you so much. >> woodruff: more than 100 wildfires are burning in and around florida, and the state is facing a difficult fire season ahead. yesterday, the governor declared a state of emergency there. william brangham has the latest. >> brangham: over 70,000 acres have burned across the state since february. and the fires are not just in one spot-- they're located in all corners of the state. and that is all occurring while florida is struggling with a major drought. jim karels is the director of the florida forest service and a 32-year veteran of fighting fires. he joins us from tallahassee. welcome to the "newshour". jim, i wonder if you could give us a sense of how things are in florida right now. >> dry. the peninsula of florida is,
especially south and central florida, is extremely dry right now and it's drying out as you go north all the way to the georgia-florida line. >> brangham: we mentioned you're also dealing with a drought at the same time. how much is that a contributing factor to all of this? >> a big contributing factor in that, you know, we had some late freezes, didn't have much of a winter here in florida, but we did have a freeze late into february, early march, and it went down to south-central florida and then didn't really rain after that. so you've got that dry vegetation. you've got low rainfalls since about january, kind of a la niña effect we tend to get in florida and now we're into our normally dry season, april, may, parts of florida early june where we're normally dry anyway, and that increases the whole situation where it makes it very easy tore fires start, makes it very easy
for fires to spread. >> brangham: this is still the beginning of your fire season. do you have a sense of the longer-term fire forecast? what does it look like going down the road? >> we have a forecast out of our national fire center in boise and that paints a red target on florida probably april, may, june. the n.o.a.a. forecast shows the drought expanding into some parts of the state into the same period, april, may, june. that's normally our dry period, along with how dry we already are, it really paints a picture that we've got a pretty intense fire season in front of us. we are very busy, already. we're busy early, and we're drier than normal early as it is in early april right now, and we really expect to preble have to -- probably have to fight fire all the way to june, maybe even july, and it tends to move up the states.
our worst is south florida. it moves to central florida and then it moves to north florida as it closes out our fire seasons. >> brangham: and over 100 fires. can you give us a sense of what is causing so many different simultaneous fires? >> well, right now, the majority of our fires are human caused, probably 90% of them. various different things. some of it is yard trash burning where people are spring cleaning and they're burning their leaves. some of it is vehicles, cadillac convertors, that type, or equipment working in the woods to have the wildlands. some of it is arson, incendiary, have some issues with that. then this past weekend, we got some lightning, so we're starting to see the lightning fires evolve as well. >> brangham: most americans think of fires out west in the dry brush and forestland we see there, but i understand the type of vegetation and the way it burns in florida is quite different.
>> it is, fire evolved under fire, so it was constant fire prior to humans, and the vegetation tends to be more waxy, more resinous. what we say in florida is green burns. that's different from the west. the west, the fuels tend to be very cured, very dry, essentially dead, where, down here, you come in here and you look at our vegetation, you think that's not going to burn, and it's just theo sit. and then it burns under a lot higher humidity. our fires can burn very intensely all the way up to 40 opened 50% humidity. in the west, it tends to be 20% or below. >> brangham: with all the different fires across the state, what is the danger to the human population? >> as you know, florida's got a big population, about 20 million people. so just about every fire we have impacts what we call the urban inner face or homes, structures, and, so far this year, we've evacuated over 1800 homes.
we lost 27. so we saved a lot, impacted a good number of people in their daily lives from the wildfires. the other thing in florida that it really experiences is the impact on the roadways. we get smoke on the highways. with all those people and with a lot of tourists moving through the state, the roads become dangerous when the visibility gets down low. >> brangham: jim karels of the florida forest service. thank you very much and good luck down there. >> thank you. >> woodruff: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: a new investigation finds nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse by u.n. peacekeepers; what's left in an ancient assyrian city after years of isis rule; and, "the refugees," fictional stories of immigration, identity and love.
but first, how will nasa's mission change under president trump, and a republican congress that helps decide where money should go? some big changes could be in store for space exploration, and the missions set into place now that could stretch well beyond the trump era. miles o'brien has the story, for our weekly segment about "the leading edge" of science and technology. >> reporter: the balcony at congressman john culberson's office on capitol hill offers a sweeping panorama of washington, but the republican from houston is usually looking higher. >> mercury. mars is right here. there's the pleiades. there's orion, and sirius is going to appear right here. this is a fabulous app that >> reporter: culberson has more than a hobby-level interest in space. he chairs the house appropriations subcommittee that oversees nasa. in his ninth term, he is riding
high, as the trump administration embraces his strategy for exploring space. >> nasa has been underfunded for far too long. they've been short-sticked by previous administrations, this past administration. and i'm very excited and pleased to see president trump recommend enough funding for nasa as a whole. >> reporter: president trump apparently sees nasa as a priority. he's made passing references to space in his inaugural address: >> we stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space. >> reporter: and his speech to congress: >> american footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream. >> reporter: the trump administration is proposing only a 1% reduction in nasa's $19 billion annual budget. hardest hit are earth science and education. but at a time when the federal scientific enterprise faces unprecedented, deep cuts, it
appears the space agency might have dodged a missile. mr. trump's space advisors include former house speaker newt gingrich and former congressman bob walker, who served as chairman of the subcommittee that oversees nasa. >> newt has had several conversations with trump and with vice president pence. both of them are space cadets, and there are other fairly high ranking people in the white house who are also space cadets. >> reporter: in this case, "space cadet" is a compliment. walker says the white house would like nasa to get out of low earth orbit, leaving that realm to private enterprise. beyond that, the space agency takes a role that increases with the distance from earth. the administration is also focused on humans returning to the moon. >> i think the moon is an important step on the way to mars. i think you have to have some experience in a very hostile
environment on where you develop some of the technologies that you need to exist on mars before you actually head to mars. >> reporter: for congressman culbertson, all that is well and good, but he believes the most important greenlit mission is aimed at this object: the icy moon of jupiter, europa. the europa clipper was approved by the obama administration and congress in 2015, more than ten years after culberson began obsessively pushing nasa to go there. europa has always fascinated him. beneath the ice is a salty ocean. how much? he answers the question with a poster on foam core he keeps in his office. >> this is all the water on earth, both fresh and salt, and all the water on europa. there is a free-floating ice shell, and there's two to three times more water on europa than there is on earth. >> reporter: scientists find this tantalizing because no matter how far down they explore
in our oceans, they find all kinds of living creatures. >> and with that much water out there, today in our solar system, that begs the question: could there be life within that ocean? >> reporter: jet propulsion laboratory astrobiologist kevin hand is in line to be the project scientist for a nasa mission to land on europa by about 2030. that lander would be preceded by an orbiter slated for launch in 2022. the orbiter is designed to capture stunning imagery and detailed science about the salts and any organic compounds on the surface, and use radar to look beneath at the boundary between the ice in the ocean. all of this will help them determine where to land. >> we'd love to melt through the ice and reach the ocean directly, but based on the evidence we have, europa's ice shell does serve as a relatively good window into the ocean below. we could, perhaps, by sampling
the surface, also be sampling ocean material and thereby also be potentially grabbing a sample that could have some little europa organisms. >> reporter: but for many years, nasa did not seem interested in europan krill. the nasa administrator under george w. bush, mike griffin, thwarted culberson's first attempt to land on europa, a mission called the jupiter icy moons orbiter. it was canceled in 2006 to pay for completion of the international space station. >> when mike griffin cancelled the europa mission last decade, it scarred me so badly, i swore i wouldn't let the bureaucrats cancel this mission again. so today, the europa orbiter and lander is the only mission-- it is illegal for nasa not to fly. >> reporter: you heard right. culberson made the europa orbiter and lander missions the law of the land in 2015. but exploring europa is challenging and expensive. nasa managers complained their plate was already too full with
the space station and an extensive campaign to explore mars. and the focus on mars is sustained by the goal of eventually sending humans to the surface. europa is only a destination for robots, and hearty ones at that. lethal radiation levels ensure no human can ever visit. it makes the mission less attractive to the powerful astronaut side of the house at nasa. but in this war of the worlds, mars has met its match. >> the fact that people are talking about europa right now is a result of chairman culberson's interest in it. >> and the fact is that he has, with his focus, caused nasa to say, "if that's what chairman culberson wants, that's what chairman culberson gets." >> reporter: culberson isn't stopping there. he has written a 50-year plan for nasa that includes a spacecraft that can go 10% the speed of light, for humanity's
first interstellar mission to the nearest earth-like star. the launch date is 2069, 100 years after the first moon landing. >> i've always wanted to restore nasa, for the glory days of apollo as you and i remembered as kids. i want to see nasa go above and beyond the glory days of apollo. >> reporter: culberson is about making nasa great again. but watch what happened in the oval office after the president signed the authorization bill for space agency's current budget: >> mr. president, if i may. just as americans remember that president eisenhower was the father of the interstate highway system, with your bill signing today and your vision and leadership, future generations will remember that president donald trump was the father of the interplanetary highway system. >> well, that sounds exciting. ( laughter ) first, we want to fix our highways. we're going to fix our highways. >> reporter: europa and mars may beckon, but for politicians, it's never wise to ignore the potholes, even when surrounded by people who care more about black holes.
for the pbs newshour, i'm miles o'brien in washington, d.c. >> woodruff: the peacekeeping force deployed by the united nations has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. that is due in no small part to past allegations of sexual abuse by troops deployed in countries like the democratic republic of the congo and the central african republic. a new investigation by the associated press finds the problem of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers is wider and even more disturbing than previously known. hari sreenivasan has the story from our new york studios. >> sreenivasan: the associated press found nearly 2,000 allegations of abuse and exploitation in the past 12 years. more than 300 of those cases involved children. and since the u.n. cannot punish peacekeepers from other countries, only a fraction of the alleged perpetrators served
jail time. the a.p. also spoke with officials in 23 countries who had troops serving as peacekeepers and were accused of these violations. trish wilson is the international investigators editor who oversaw the a.p. story. ms. wilson, thanks for joining us. how did you come upon the investigations that were underway by the u.n.? >> well, earlier last year, there was a lot of reporting out of the congo and the central african republic about allegations against u.n. peacekeepers so we decide to look at the numbers going back to 2004 when the first wave of allegations came out against peacekeepers and that's what got us started. from there, we just counted the number of allegations per year that the u.n. had reported. >> sreenivasan: you've zoomed in on haiti and started to look at almost a pattern of behavior here. what happened there? >> haiti has been singled out as being a country where a lot of
these abuses have occurred in unusually high number given the the total of 2,000, so we went to look to see what we could find out in hatey. we compiled the numbers. we found 150 cases. we found a lot of cases involving children. as we were doing the reporting, we have a team in haiti and sent our investigative reporter paisley dos to haiti and eventually stumbled across the internal investigative report from the u.n. which chronicled this amazing tale of children that were in a sex ring that was and were abused by u.n. peacekeepers over a three-year period. it was nine children abused by 134 u.n. peacekeepers. >> sreenivasan: these children were paid sometimes a few pennies or a dollar at a time for sex acts? >> yes, there was food, yogurt, juice given to the children who were hungry, and that's why they did this. we saw -- the lowest amount we
found was 75 cents and the highest amount was $20. >> sreenivasan: on the one hand, the u.n. conducts what you call a thorough investigation, but then what happens after that? >> you know, that's what's curious. it was really a very good investigation by the u.n. they went to the children, they made sure that the children were not making it up. the children actually spoke and showed -- spoke which was telling and they showed thousands of pictures where the children were lured into having sex by the peacekeepers so it was a good investigation. what happened after that investigation is what typically happens at the u.n. and one of the reasons why this is such an important case study, the problem is that the u.n. is in a legal bind. as you said when you opened the segment, it does not have jurisdiction over any of these countries so the deal is here's our investigative report. now it's time for sri lanka to
come in and look at this report. sri lanka did, 114 soldiers were sent home. what happened after that is anybody's guess. there is no accountability, there are no names of any of these people, and nobody ever went to jail. so if you can imagine, these kinds of corroborated crimes against children over a three-year period corroborated by a u.n. investigative team and then nothing happens. >> sreenivasan: you said some of these children were speaking one of the languages spoken in sri lanka and how would they have known it had they not been in touch with these peacekeepers. there were other countries as well involved and it's happening in other parts of the world. >> yes, there have been allegations all over the world. this particular story focused on haiti, but we are doing a series -- this is the first in a series that looks at what's been going on with u.n. peacekeepers so there have been, sure, problems in central african
republic, problems in congo with u.n. peacekeepers as well as other places. >> sreenivasan: what's been the reaction from the united nations to this? >> well, they say they are very concerned. they do not think this is acceptable. they have announced yet another wave of reforms but these reforms are very similar to what they announced in 2004 when the first wave of allegations became public. so the question is how do you fix this? is this okay? can we really pay for peacekeepers to go abroad and protect people and, instead, have this appalling abuse against the very civilians they're sent to protect? no. >> sreenivasan: trish wilson from the associated press, thank you so much for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> woodruff: the isis campaign of terror, murder and conquest
has been well-documented. but the group has also used its particular interpretation of islam to justify the destruction of historical treasures in what is known as the "fertile crescent," the area between the tigris and euphrates rivers, mesopotamia where the earliest recorded civilizations began. from the ancient ruins of nimrud, in northern iraq, special correspondent marcia biggs reports. it's part of our ongoing coverage of "culture at risk." >> reporter: the road to the cradle of civilization is finally accessible. we're making our way there to see what's left of a 3,000-year- old city, after only 2.5 years under isis. with us, two archaeologists-- leila salih, originally from nearby mosul; and tobin hartnell, an australian teaching at a local kurdish university. it takes us four hours to travel the roughly 35 miles, through checkpoint after checkpoint controlled by kurdish peshmerga
and iraqi shiia militias. sheikh khalid al sabah al jobori commands the shiia militia controlling the area. he grew up in this village, and treasures memories of picnics at nimrud and the buses full of tourists. >> ( translated ): for us in this village, nimrud is one of the first things we saw when we were born. this ancient city and its antiquities, it's a part of our life. >> reporter: nimrud is the ancient city known as calah in the bible, capital of the assyrian empire, known for its famous lamassu, winged bulls guarding the gates of the palace. it was destroyed in the seventh century b.c. its ruins buried in time, archaeologists unearthed it 2,500 years later. when the islamic state captured parts of northern iraq in 2014, it declared war on the ruins of nimrud; releasing this video of isis militants taking sledgehammers to the ancient site, drilling holes in its carvings, and finally blowing the entire place up.
>> ( translated ): god has honored us here in the islamic state and helped us to destroy anytng that used to be worshipped besides god in ancient days. >> reporter: when isis took the town, they also destroyed sheikh khaled's home and killed 40 of his family members, including two brothers. but he says he rarely cried, until he saw this isis video. >> ( translated ): i lost something priceless. my sorrow lies in the fact that we lost something that we were so proud of when the tourists came to our country. the pride we felt for them and our civilization, what our ancient grandparents made for our country, it's a subject that's part of our soul. when the saddam regime fell in 2003, we and our clans protected those monuments because there was no central iraqi government. we were able to protect the palace from looting. but, isis, isis did something we were not expecting. >> reporter: the area was taken back by iraqi forces last november, but it was forever
changed. when we arrived, the first thing we noticed was that the pyramid- like structure, the famous ziggurat of the ishtar temple, was erased from its skyline. and the temple once at its feet, the victim of a massive explosion. >> every photograph, every view i've ever seen of nimrud has that temple, that ziggurat, and it's gone. that's the thing that is the most devastating, is to see it just bulldozed. it's gone. the iconic image of nimrud is with the ziggurat. >> reporter: for tobin hartnell, this was an experience he'd waited for. he studied assyria and its ancient capital for 15 years, and yet he had never seen it. he took a job teaching at the american university of iraq in 2014 and was just about to move his family when isis swept through the region. >> we got basically the email, or call in my case, in email saying, "well, you don't have to accept the job because isis has
just taken mosul." my wife and i, we talked about it, we're going. because as archaeologists, this is where the work needs to be. >> reporter: how does it feel to be walking down these steps for the first time? >> it's bittersweet. it's an incredible sight that i've been looking forward to for many years. but look at it. walking over rubble, the destruction that isis has left has turned one of the most magnificent palaces of assyria into a disaster zone. >> reporter: the gates of the famous northwest palace, once the home of magnificent winged bulls, reduced to rubble, its walls bare. >> i never got to see the gate as it should be seen, that these bulls are welcome to the palace. >> every assyrian gate have a couple of winged bulls, so we cannot imagine the gates without them. >> reporter: it wasn't leila salah's first time here. she was 14 years old when she first visited nimrud. >> to be honest with you, at that time we didn't care about
historical things or ancient civilization things, we just would like to escape out of school. but i can remember the huge figure of lamasso and the facade of that palace. >> reporter: but it was a happy place for you to come with friends and family? >> of course, it's a very happy and wonderful, amazing place for us. >> reporter: salah is from nearby mosul, much of it still controlled by isis. she fled in 2014, with only a handbag. she was the curator for the mosul museum, which isis was seen destroying in these videos. even with the widespread damage, both she and hartnell say there is still hope for nimrud. >> i thought we lost everything, as you see in the video, but after i visited nimrud? yes, there are some positive signs for us. >> you can see the feathers of the wing.
>> reporter: one source of hope: large chunks of the rubble still exist, which makes restoration easier. and several of the original lamassu bulls excavated in the 19th century have been living for decades in museums in london and new york. while the displaying of iraq's antiquities abroad may have been controversial, for the man whose childhood was spent among the ruins, this actually provides some comfort. >> ( translated ): maybe we iraqis felt hurt when we saw our monuments displayed outside of iraq. we get hurt because it's our civilization. but when isis occupied the city, i felt relieved that nimrud monuments had been transported outside of iraq and remain protected. and we are proud of them wherever they are. >> reporter: and after over 100 years of excavation, hartnell says less than a quarter of the ancient city was actually unearthed. >> there's still 1,000 to 2,000 years of history underneath that palace. the whole city is waiting to be discovered.
>> reporter: in some ways, this being razed will allow archaeologists to see what's underneath? >> if, when we're doing our cleanup and restoration, we take some more time to dig down, we will find many more discoveries from what happened before the empire, what happened in the 10th or 11th, 12th centuries, which are also great periods in mesopotamia history. and yet we know almost nothing. >> reporter: for hartnell, amidst the sobering reality of finally checking nimrud off his bucket list, comfort in determining what needs be done. >> you have to see, be there and see the destruction to start to formulate a plan. archaeologists need to be on the ground. so i wouldn't say a dream comes true, but it was on my dream list before it was destroyed for very good reasons. it's a fantastic place and i think it will be again. >> reporter: as the sun sets on nimrud, it's a promise that a new day will come. for the pbs newshour, i'm marcia biggs in nimrud, northern iraq.
>> woodruff: now, the latest addition to the newshour bookshelf. it's "the refugees," a short story collection from last year's winner of the pulitzer prize for fiction. jeffrey brown talked with viet thanh nguyen at this year's conference of the association of american writers and writing programs here in washington, d.c. >> brown: i wanted to start with, maybe it's a basic question, but it's the word "refugees," because it's an important one to you. >> right. >> brown: what does it mean? >> to be a refugee, especially in our contemporary moment, is to be different than an immigrant. i think immigrants are somewhat acceptable to europe and the united states, but refugees are the unwanted from wherever they come from and they're often unwanted where they come to. and especially in the united states, americans think it's un-american to be a refugee. so it's actually really important to me to assert, "i am a refugee, i write about
refugees" and that we need to think about the necessity of opening our doors and welcoming refugees in. >> brown: right now you're in between worlds, never leaving one behind fully. why is that so much harder for the refugee than the immigrant or others? >> i think immigrants do feel some of that attachment to wherever they came from, but they usually made a choice to go somewhere and they've decided to look forward, to some extent. but refugees are often compelled to leave by violent circumstance. they're really still attached to wherever they came from. so that's where i think refugees oftentimes have a hard time adjusting, at least psychologically. they may adjust culturally and economically, but psychologically, half of them is still somewhere else. >> brown: so in the first story in this new book, new collection, "black-eyed woman," the main character is a woman who's a vietnamese american ghostwriter, so she's actually there but not there, literally. >> right. and so i wanted to make it sort of a story that was about ghosts, in many different ways.
she's a ghostwriter, but she's actually haunted by a real ghost. that ghost is of her dead brother, who she thought had died on the escape from vietnam on a boat. and then one night, he comes knocking on the door. he's literally a ghost, who swam thousands of miles to get to her door. and it's about the literal and figurative hauntings that so many people who have escaped through traumatic circumstances continue to live with. >> brown: but the emphasis is on the real ghost, right? >> right. >> brown: so, real as in, these people are alive for your characters? >> yes, and i think-- in many cultures, ghosts really exist. i mean, literally. vietnamese people, for example, often recount being visited by people who have just died, not to haunt them, but to come and say goodbye. >> brown: as i read through the stories in this book, you've got characters who have lived here in the u.s. for a long time. you have stories set in vietnam, you have americans going back. what are you exploring through these stories? >> i think that when i say "vietnamese" to americans or to other people, there might be
this idea there's only one vietnamese kind of culture or one vietnamese kind of people, and i'm going to speak for them. but vietnamese are just like everybody else, and they're diverse. so this is a collection where i wanted to talk about the young and the old, the straight and the gay, the conservative and the radicals, the ones who stayed and the ones who went back, to give people a sense of how heterogeneous and contradictory these people are. >> brown: are you aware, as the readers are aware, of the newness of this voice in our literature? i mean, do you feel that? >> i think so, because in order to be a writer, you need to read a lot, in the traditions in which you write. so i read a lot of vietnamese writing, asian american writing, and american writing. and the novel is explicitly designed to provoke all these different categories that do things that i don't think has been done before in those categories, including in contemporary american fiction. >> brown: i want to ask you about you and your ghosts because, you say, "i was born in vietnam but made in america." to what extent do you feel yourself of two worlds? >> well, when i was growing up, i felt myself to be a spy in my parents' household, because they
were vietnamese and i was being americanized. and then when i went outside, i was a vietnamese spying on americans. and that sense of always being an observer, always being a spy, has continued to stay with me. and it's been influenced by this refugee past, this being haunted by what has impacted my parents and my vietnamese community. and it's been productive in the sense that it has made me into a writer. to always be able to see things from the inside and the outside, to always be observing, to always be spying on people-- that's really enormously useful for a writer. but it means i have to allow myself to not forget that sense of haunting and displacement. >> brown: but that means you don't want to leave that behind, in other words. i mean, you have to live in this world, but you also have to hold onto something. >> i think i have to be willing to be unsettled and to be uncomfortable. and most people don't want that. most people want to be in one place, they want to feel settled and happy. they want to fear comfortable. that's not a good condition for a writer, usually. so it means i have to be willing to tolerate that, to cultivate that, in order to get the kinds of insights that i can and then make other people uncomfortable with those insights as a result.
>> brown: so when you-- if we fast forward to today's world and this discussion of refugees and immigrants-- do you feel a responsibility as a writer or as a citizen to address these things more? >> i do feel that as an individual. i'm a politically aware person, but i also feel that as a writer, one of the writer's most urgent tasks is to say something about the world today. and i think the sharpening of the political division has made other writers much more cognizant of that also, that we need to address the urgent, political controversies of our time. >> brown: so how are you doing that? >> well, i think "the refugees" was my way of doing that. and it just happened to be that the refugee problem, which has always been with us, has come to a head. and now outside of that, i take the opportunity outside of this platform as a writer to write op-eds, to speak out in public, to go on the "seth meyers show" and not just to talk about happy
things, but also to talk about our history and refugees and immigrants to a late night audience. >> brown: yeah. and do you get a sense that the culture is listening? >> i think so. either they're listening because they hate refugees and immigrants or they're listening because they think we should embrace and welcome refugees and immigrants. but people are listening, one way or the other. >> brown: all right, the new story collection is "the refugees." viet thanh nguyen, thank you very much. >> woodruff: tonight on pbs, "nature" presents a look at conservation efforts in puerto rico to protect endangered wildlife from extinction on land and sea. and, "american experience" airs its final night of "the great war." that's tonight on most pbs stations. on the newshour online right now: why do so many americans feel so financially insecure? two economists followed more than 200 low- and moderate- income households for a full year to understand why and the results of their study are part
of a book, "the financial diaries." you can read an excerpt on our website, www.pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. on thursday: as tax day approaches, our "making sense" team zeroes in on why, compared with many other countries, u.s. taxpayers spend more time preparing their tax returns. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again right here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> supported by the rockefeller foundation. promoting the wellbeing of humanity around the world, by building resilience and inclusive economies. more at www.rockefellerfoundation.org.
>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> you're watching pbs.
narrator: for decades, space has been the domain of powerful governments with vast resources. hubbard: nasa's budget hit a huge spike, almost 5% of the federal budget. narrator: those days are long gone. now a new generation of entrepreneurs is reaching for opportunities and profits in space. but this new space era carries major risks and costs. greason: if we fly in space enough, people will die. narrator: coming up, how the big, bold ideas of silicon valley and reshaping america's next frontier.